Limitless Aeronautics wins 2023 Volusia County Innovation Challenge

In photo from left to right: Innovation Challenge Organizers Lou Paris & Kevin Manley, Skye Meraki Founder Skye Shapiro-Simmons, Limitless Aeronautics Founders Alex Gardner & Nyameaama Gambrah, Innovation Challenge Organizers and Volusia County Business Incubator Site Manager Connie Garzon

Six student-led companies presented their business concepts and plans to a panel of judges at the 2023 Volusia County Innovation Challenge pitch competition on Nov. 15.

Previously known as the Cairns Foundation Innovation Challenge, this annual event brings entrepreneurs from Volusia County colleges and universities together to compete for $20,000 in cash and prizes for their ventures. 

This year’s top prize went to Limitless Aeronautics, founded by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students Alex Gardner and Nyameaama Gambrah.

Limitless Aeronautics, winner of $10,000 and one year of enrollment in the UCF Business Incubation Program, is dedicated to crafting the future of cost-effective micro-UAV swarm technologies, bringing mission-critical systems to the modern and future frontline worker.

“The opportunity presented by the Volusia County Innovation Challenge is tremendous and will help move us forward from working models to functional prototypes, and ultimately into the market,” says Limitless CEO Alex Gardner.

This year’s second place winner was Stetson University’s Skye Shapiro-Simmons, founder of skin care company Skye Meraki. Born out of personal experience and developed with a proprietary blend of natural, chemical-free compounds, Skye Meraki’s product is already providing relief to customers diagnosed with psoriasis.

The 2023 Innovation Challenge was the 10th since being launched through a partnership between the Volusia County Business Incubator and the Cairns Foundation. James Cairns retired this year and closed his foundation. Volusia County and incubation program leaders worked to keep the challenge alive to support the community’s future entrepreneurs.

“This is one of my favorite events of the year seeing the tremendous future of entrepreneurship in our region,” says Connie Garzon, site manager for the Volusia County Business Incubator powered by the UCF Business Incubation Program. “I always look forward to seeing how these companies grow over the years and experiencing the impact they have over time.”

Helping entrepreneurs and innovators succeed continues to be a countywide goal. Small businesses, including those born from student innovation, are a critical component of economic health.

“Our county supports events like this to help strengthen the community’s economic future,” says Cyrus Callum, director of Volusia County’s Aviation and Economic Resources Department. “By supporting these young entrepreneurs, we hope to encourage them to press on and, after graduation, to stay and build their companies right here in Volusia County.”


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